Join Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery for a show and sale of photography by Nathan Benn. Benn will also be signing his premiere book “Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972-1990.” Artist reception is Friday, August 30th, 5 to 7 pm. Show dates August 30 - September 13, 2013.
KODACHROME MEMORY: American Pictures 1972-1990 by Nathan Benn
As America huffed and puffed to the end of the 1970s, more than an era was ending. One America was vanishing and simultaneously giving birth to who we are today. Kodachrome Memory presents a last glimpse of an America that was, the last stand of the old order, the final tired, proud, alive moments of distinctive regionalism before the information age hastened a great cultural flattening. If ever a camera’s shutter could render a subject infinite, these images of people rich and poor, their private spaces and material culture, capture that last America before the last revolution.
Nathan Benn embraced color photography before it was considered an acceptable medium for serious documentary expression, traveling globally for National Geographic Magazine for two decades. In revisiting his archive of almost half a million images, and editing his photographs with a 21st century perspective, he discovered hundreds of unpublished American pictures that appeared inconsequential to editors of the 1970s—1980s, but now resonate with empathetic insight.
Growing up in South Florida, Benn often felt like a foreigner when he photographed in the American Heartland, a place that seemed to him to be populated by regional tribes with traits like Yankee frugality and enterprise, biases expressed in blackface and KKK cross-burning, and absurdities like a Chihuahua disguised as an elephant. He savored both the diversity and individuality of his subjects, recognizing that these characters were vanishing in an age of mass marketing and increasing commodification.
Kodachrome Memory exemplifies forthright storytelling about everyday people and vernacular spaces. The photographs, organized by geographic and cultural affinities (Yankee, Heartland, Pittsburgh, and Florida), raise questions rather than purport facts; they enchant with elegant forms and unexpected details. An essay by scholar Paul M. Farber contextualizes the creation and selection of these images, and offers a fresh perspective about color photography on the eve of the digital revolution.